Election Day has arrived. Experts are predicting a record 121 million voters may cast ballots today to pick the nation’s president, the entire House of Representatives and to determine what party retains control of the Senate. With polls showing the presidential race in a dead heat, fears are growing that the election will not be decided at the polls but in the courts.
President Bush and Senator John Kerry have deployed tens of thousands of attorneys across the country.
Late last night a federal appeals court in Ohio reversed two lower court rulings and ruled that Republicans will be allowed to send thousands of operatives into the polls today to challenge the eligibility of voters. A pair of Ohio civil rights activists had sued the state to block the challenges saying they were unconstitutional and that the law allowing the challengers dated back to the Jim Crow Era. Both Kerry and Bush view Ohio as a must-win state.
Penn. GOP Plan To Challenge 10,000 Voters in Philadelphia
In Pennsylvania Republicans have also announced plans to challenge as many as 10,000 voters from west Philadelphia, an area populated by many African-Americans. And the Republicans plan similar challenges in Florida.
Meanwhile in South Dakota, Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle took his Republican opponent, John Thune, and 200 Republican attorneys to court yesterday over allegations of intimidation of Native American voters.
Numerous groups have set up 1-800 hotlines for voters who experience problems at the poll. The hotline run by the Election Protection Coalition, 1-866-OUR VOTE, has already received 50,000 calls since mid-October. More reports of pre-election day dirty tricks have also emerged. In Michigan, an unknown group has been placing automated phone calls to heavily populated African-American areas around Detroit. The recording on the call says, "When you vote this Tuesday, remember to legalize gay marriage by supporting John Kerry. It’s what we all want. It’s a basic Democratic principle." Kerry, in fact, opposes gay marriage. The Republican party denied being behind the calls.
Meanwhile in Palm Beach County Florida, a widely published investigative journalist was arrested Sunday for taking photos of voters waiting in line to vote. According to news reports, the county’s sheriff’s deputy tackled, punched and arrested the journalist, James Henry. Police accused Henry of breaking a new county rule barring reporters from interviewing or photographing voters lined up outside the polls. The 54-year-old Henry is a Harvard-educated lawyer and economist who has written for the New York Times, Washington Post and other publications.
Meanwhile in Iraq, the Pentagon has increased the number of troops to the highest levels since major combat operations ended. Home leave for tens of thousands of troops have been delayed and 3,500 new soldiers have arrived — bringing the total to 142,000.
In other Iraq news, at least six people were killed in a suicide car bombing earlier today outside Iraq’s Education Ministry in Baghdad. 21 people were injured in the blast.
Meanwhile hundreds of residents of Fallujah have been fleeing the city to escape the nightly bombing raids by the U.S.
Six employees of a Saudi company, including one American, were taken hostage yesterday after kidnappers raided the business’s Baghdad office.
In Ramadi, a Reuters cameraman was among the six people shot dead by a sniper on Monday. The 57-year-old Dhia Najim was on assignment with Reuters when he was killed. Agence France Press reported that it remains unclear whether the sniper was from the U.S. or the Iraqi resistance. Reporters Without Borders has determined at least 46 journalists and other media workers have now been killed inside Iraq following the U.S. invasion. Two French journalists have been missing since they were abducted on August 20.
In the West Bank city of Nablus, Israeli troops have destroyed the home of the teenage Palestinian suicide bomber a day after he carried out an attack that killed three Israelis in Tel Aviv. Meanwhile the mother of the 16-year-old Amer al-Fahr, criticized those who sent her son to death. She said, "It’s immoral to send someone so young. They should have sent an adult who understood the meaning of his deeds." Amer al-Fahr is one of the youngest suicide bombers to attack Israel during the intifada. Overnight undercover Israeli forces killed three Palestinian members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades.
And this news from Uraguay, voters there have elected a left-wing president for the first time in the country’s 170 year history. Tabare Vazquez, a doctor, won in the first round of voting with just over 50 percent of the vote. Vazquez’s heads the Broad Front Progressive Encounter that is a coalition of former leftwing guerrillas, socialists, communists and social democrats. Vazquez’s victory in Uraguay follows similar moves to the left in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, Paraguay and Ecuador.